A Japanese viewpoint on Japanese whaling Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 09:07

This is a very good article passed on to me by Lisa Vickers on whaling. It is an editorial that appeared in the Weekly Magazine AERA Heisei Zakkicho No. 31, from Japanese novelist Kaoru Takamura. 

What reasons support the continued practice of whaling? Despite a prevailing framework resembling that corresponding to road-use revenue, there are more serious issues at stake.

Most everyone who grew up as part of my generation still has feelings of nostalgia for whale meat as a result of having been fed whale cutlets for school lunches. Gourmets are enthralled by the mention of tail meat and parboiled tail meat. Hari-hari nabe (hot pot), a typical homemade meal enjoyed by ordinary people in the past, remains an offering found at some specialty restaurants. However, whales, which until a number of years ago were not generally distributed by the food industry, are these days sold even in department stores. Thus, the large volume of whales caught as part of the scientific whaling program has in fact contributed to a glut in the market in contrast to the former status of this food as a scarce and valuable product.

With the fruitless exchanges between anti-whaling and pro-whaling countries every year at meetings of the International Whaling Convention (IWC) now going on for a quarter of a century, one might be tempted to wonder just how seriously Japan intends to try to persuade anti-whaling countries to see the merits of its position. In the beginning, it was argued that whales were an important source of protein for the Japanese people. It was then argued that whales were an integral part of Japan’s ancient food culture. More recently, it has been argued that an increase in the population of whales that consume large amounts of fish stock is causing a depletion of fishing industry resources. Despite the continued submission of the results of individual scientific research projects based on such arguments to the IWC, such efforts have not been recognized or accepted to any degree. Given the counterarguments provided by scientists put forth by anti-whaling countries to bolster their position, it can be concluded that the scientific reports produced by Japan are lacking in universal scientific persuasiveness.

Laypersons are unable to engage in academic evaluations of such arguments. Furthermore, assertions made by anti-whaling countries that wish to ban commercial whaling across-the-board to also encompass species not regulated by the Washington Treaty do not seem reasonable. At the same time, however, it is felt that there are no reasons for Japan in the twenty-first century to be so obstinately attached to the practice of whaling.

While it is true that this was once a life-or-death issue for whalers, such people have by now completed their transition to other types of fishing operations, such that only the continued existence of the relevant sections of the Fisheries Agency and affiliated scientific whaling-related companies and research institutes is affected. Given the fact that whales are no longer an important source of protein and the fact that there is nobody left in Japan who believes that whaling is a part of our food culture, there is no doubt that there are no benefits to be accrued from insisting on engaging in commercial whaling while antagonizing virtually the entire world in the process. Just as with the case of road-use revenue, the inability to change?no matter how unreasonable?a framework of vested rights that has become fixed effectively epitomizes Japan.

In contrast to roads, however, whaling even leads to friction with important countries with whom Japan interacts. Having come to this point, we should take the fact that this is now a time in which?for example?the Australian government is expressly denouncing research whaling conducted by Japan more seriously than the fact that radical anti-whaling activists in Antarctic waters have repeatedly engaged in protest activities against research whaling by the Japanese.

If it is inconceivable that a Japan without resources would prioritize whaling over the guarantee of security, then we should look closely at what Japan will be asserting this year before the IWC. If after spending taxpayers' money year after year, we are still unable to produce any scientific report that is capable of convincing the world to accept our position, then there is also the option of bringing the program to an end. The inability to scientifically rebut the emotionally charged arguments of anti-whaling countries that demand that we cease the killing of whales reflects poorly on the Japanese people. Indeed, rather than arguing in global isolation that whaling is necessary, I was under the impression that our meat diet was characterized as excessive to begin with, or am I wrong on this point?

Kaoru Takamura, Born in Osaka in 1953. Recipient of the Naoki Award in 1993 for Mark's Mountain. Has written Lady Joker, The Ballad of Haruko, and more. A serialized work entitled Taiyo wo Hiku Uma is currently being published in Shincho.

(Source: http://forum.greenpeace.org)